calendar February 16, 2021 in anti-racism

An Awakening

I have participated in numerous anti-racism training events over the years, sponsored by either the synod or the churchwide organization. (For those events, I express a profound feeling of gratitude.) But I did not fully comprehend the reality of “white privilege” until I had an unexpected conversation with a fellow pastoral care resident at the hospital where both of us were serving.

My friend and colleague, an African American, began the conversation by telling me about a frightening moment that he had the previous evening while driving home from the hospital. Because of road construction, he was forced to take a detour. While driving along an unfamiliar route, he came upon a police roadblock. Stopped along with other drivers, he began to pray: “Please Lord, if I have to get a beating, give me the strength to endure.” My friend eventually passed through the roadblock without incident and arrived home safely.

As a white person, I thought to myself, “It would have never occurred to me to be concerned about my own safety at a police roadblock. Yes, I might be annoyed at the delay but not fearful.” That’s when I had an awakening. I knew then that being white gives me a privilege that people of color do not have.

My friend was not looking for pity or sympathy. He was simply expressing to me the reality of the racist system with which he has lived all of his life. He opened my eyes to see the world from the perspective of people whose experience in life has been vastly different from my own. Reflecting on my friend’s story, I share it as a reminder of the anti-racism work that our faith calls us to do.

The Rev. Raymond Miller, a member of the Anti-racism Team, is pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Hilltown.

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